The Strange Boys – Be Brave

Rating: ★★★½☆

It’s been a little over a year since the release of their last album, but already The Strange Boys are returning with another album.  Here we find the local Austin heroes doing their twangy R&B meets country on Be Brave.  This time, however, the boys don’t seem nearly as rambunctious, instead they’ve chosen to slow it all down, spending a lot more time with swinging numbers that might just have you wrapping your arms around your favorite pal (or lover) as you swing them to and fro.

There’s an elephant standing in the corner of the room, and it’s best to get that fella out in the open right away.  Singer Ryan Sambol doesn’t have the most pristine vocal styling, and some might even call it grating at times. But, despite the fact that he never seems too polished, there is an underlying bit of charm behind such an approach.  It seems rooted in the tradition of singers who had very little traditional training, but put every ounce of emotion into their performances.  That being said, it is not a vocal style for everyone.

The first song to really put the listener on notice has to be “A Walk on the Beach.”  At first, the song seems to stumble through the first two minutes, as Sambol does his warble croon over  a light guitar track.  But, once that two minute mark hits (1:32 actually) you get a quickened pace, almost as if a train’s coming for you.  Just as soon as you get there, you get a switch, as the boys turn into a twangy swing band.  The music isn’t really swing, but you can feel the band twisting and turning you with each guitar chord, and after all, there is a blaring horn.

One of the things about Be Brave that shows a bit of a shift in musical strategy, as alluded to earlier, is that the slow burners here have a lot more of an emotional appeal this time around.  Take “Between Us” and play it on your back porch while you’re drinking with your pals, and you’re guaranteed to have your arms around each other laughing at old tales of glory.  It just has a sort of swing that gets you into cherishing times past.

The Strange Boys clearly have discovered that they can continue along the lines of their self-created genre while still pushing their sound, and their career for that matter.  “Dare I Say” is a wonderful tune, and it’s probably one of the simplest numbers on the record.  There’s a touch of barroom piano, but mostly it’s just guitar and vocal; it remains one of the more “mainstream” tunes they’ve tossed out. It’s also the song that kicks off a steady string of slow, yet solid, songs.  From this point until the end, you’ll find mellow numbers that seem more like solo affairs than anything else.  Funnily, “All You Can Hide Inside” sounds like The Strange Boys covering Jeff Buckley, yet you’ll still find it enjoyable.

Be Brave comes to you with little press, at least in contrast to …And Girls Club, yet for those who listen closely, it’s the most complete recording The Strange Boys have managed to put together.  Aesthetically, it remains the same, but it’s their ability to find the groove from simple guitars and vocals that manages to make this album more successful than the last. Cheers boys, you’re doing us Austinites proud.

[audio:http://austintownhall.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/08-Dare-I-Say.mp3]

Download: The Strange Boys – Dare I Say [MP3]

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